Tuesday, February 5, 1861
The second day of the Provisional Congress established a set of rules to be carried throughout the meeting. This convention would be treated as a “congress of sovereign, independent states.” When deputies (the delegates in attendance) would vote, they would not do so individually, but by state.
The Convention resolved “to form a Confederacy of the states that have seceded from the federal union, and that a committee be appointed to report a plan for the provisional government for the same upon the basis of the constitution of the United States.”
This, as everyone hoped, was not a simple Convention, but the beginnings of a new Southern government.
The Convention adjourned, but went into “secret sessions” immediately. Here they resolved to establish a President, Vice-President and Congress for a provincial government. The United States government, they felt, had strayed far from the original Constitution. It was then resolved that the new Constitution should mirror the original United States Constitution with as few alterations as possible.1
This was all moving quite quickly. Too quickly for some like Robert Barnwell Rhett who didn’t care for all this assumption that the seceded states would so quickly resolve to form another Union. And yet, for others like Tom Cobb who threatened to go home if the proceedings didn’t pick up the pace, it could not move fast enough.2
President Tyler Becomes President
Former President John Tyler was elected President of the Peace Conference taking place at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. Tyler spoke for Virginia, begging cooler heads and recalling the many Revolutionary heroes from both Northern and Southern states. He noted the states not yet in attendance and those that would probably not be coming (Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota), hoping that their hearts would be with the assembly.3
But this assembly would hardly be taken seriously. Of the 131 members that would attend only seven were under the age of forty. This was, as the New York Tribune noted, an “Old Gentleman’s Convention.” Others called it the “Old Fossils’ Convention.” The former President, along with former governors, former senators and all the former important men of Washington would try to push their middle of the road politics upon radicals on both sides.